Wicked Wednesday: The Monster Club (1981)

If I had to sum up The Monster Club in one word, it’d be “goofy”. It’s simultaneously serious and silly, creating a real mix of emotions and feel throughout the entire movie.

And when it’s an anthology, that’s to be expected to a certain extent.

This 1981 British film was based on the work of author Ronald Chetwynd-Hayes. He’s injected into his own story by becoming one of the main characters in the framing story. Chetwynd-Hayes (played by John Carradine) bumps into a stranger one night, and becomes a midnight snack for a vampire.

But the vampire (Vincent Price) doesn’t finish the author off, but rather invites him to the Monster Club: a swingin’ club that, well, has monsters in it. The author is slightly alarmed, but is met with constant hospitality. The two hunker down at a table and the vampire, Eramus, begins to tell three stories – each about a different monster.

The first, “The Shadmock” follows a poor and greedy couple as they seek ways to make money. The woman, Angela, answers an ad in the newspaper from a man looking for someone to catalogue his antiques. When Angela first visits, she’s frightened away by the man’s face, but her boyfriend insists she return.

Angela reluctantly returns and takes the job working for Raven. She slowly learns about all his wealth, and the pair become closer. Raven eventually proposes to Angela. Her boyfriend again encourages her to follow through with it for the sake of money. Angela tells Raven that she accepts his proposal, and he suggests that they have a masquerade to celebrate.

At the ball, Angela is discovered trying to rob Raven. The man, now revealed to be a “Shadmock”, releases a high-pitched whistle. The smouldering corpse of Angela returns home, much to the terror of her boyfriend.

In “The Vampires”, the second tale of the night, a young boy struggles through life being bullied and slightly neglected. His father sleeps all day, and he rarely spends any time with the boy. But one day, when the boy is downtrodden, his mother tells him that his father is a count.

The boy goes to school and brags to his bullies. While he’s pushed down again, he’s rescued by a black-clad man (Donald Pleasence). He talk to the man, who begins to ask more questions about the boy’s father.

Eventually, the boy discovers that his father is a vampire. But before he can do anything about it, the black-clad man arrives with his crew. He reveals that they are vampire hunters, and then promptly stakes the father in the heart. But before the vampire can die, he bites the vampire hunter, turning him as well.

The other vampire hunters kill their leader and flee the house. It’s then revealed that the father vampire had been wearing a stake-proof vest all along.

The third story follows more strange monsters, “The Ghouls”. While just as deadly, the Ghouls appear more human than the Shadmock and keep more regular hours than a Vampire.

A film director heads to a small village while scouting for movie locations. When he arrives, he finds that the locals are both creepy and unhelpful. He tries to leave the the village, but discovers that his car has been tampered with. The locals then force him into a room in the inn on an upper level.

The director then meets a young girl, who explains that she is only half-human, unlike the others in the village. Everyone else there is a ghoul and likes to feast on human flesh. The girl also explains that the ghouls cannot go on holy ground. She then helps the director escape the inn and head into the village church.

There, the director learns the truth about the village’s history. It was overrun with ghouls who mated with humans (presumably dead ones). The girl arrives at the church, and they both try to escape to the outside world together.

The girl eventually dies, but the director flees to the motorway and waves down police officer. The officer offers to give him a ride, but the director soon finds himself back in the village. There to be a snack for the ghouls’ leaders.

After Eramus’s stories, he invites the author to become an honorary member of the Monster Club. While the author is resistant, Eramus explains that the most terrifying monster of all is the human.

The Monster Party is certainly an odd one. I couldn’t get through the first twenty minutes last week without turning it off. It’s tone is inconsistent, and it’s distracting.

There are some scenes in the club with bands playing. But even that doesn’t quite hit either the “this is excellent” or “this is so bad it’s good” marks.

If the film had committed to which tone it wanted, it might have been more successful. But overall, it’s just right in the middle.

Just Can’t Get Enough Pt. 10

Nothing is more special than when you re-discover a long-lost favourite. When I saw that MOJO had listed The Clean’s “Anthology” reissue as one of the best of the year (Q3), it was like being kissed by an angel. Discovering the music of New Zealand’s indie scene in the 80s was as grand of a discovery as anything Dr. Jones could find in any temple.

There’s lots to love about The Clean (often thought as the VU for New Zealand): simple music style, quirky lyrics and absolutely no-fuss. “Anthology” was released as a collection of the band’s earliest works. While the band has released several albums, “Anthology” is still as important – if not more. Their label Flying Nun Records, perhaps the most iconic label to come out of New Zealand, housed many of the great kiwi bands like The Verlaines and The Chills. It was under their name that “Anthology” was released and appropriately so. Much of The Clean’s early work is infectious yet complex despite it’s simplicity – tracks like “Draw(in)g a (W)hole” and “Point That Thing” are some of the highlights worth listening to whether you’re familiar with the band or not yet.

Though there is lots to love, the easiest track to fall in love with is the “Anything Could Happen”. You really can’t listen to it just once. It is pure lyrical whimsy. Admittedly, a bit abstract (dancers and highways, a doctor and a junkyard), but I’d like to believe what the chorus is saying:

“Anything could happen and it could be right now. The choice is yours – so make it worthwhile.”

I interpret the song as a struggle with getting on from an emotional slump or the demons within. Hell, is there anyone who has moved to a large city that can’t relate to this?

“Well here I am in the big city
I got no heart and I got no pity
Can’t you see I’m on the run
Can’t you see I’m not having any fun”

The Clean is worth listening to. If you haven’t heard them already – prepare to fall in love. If you already are in love, it’s so easy to fall head over heels all over again.